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S. Schneegans, Editor
p 2 - The International Year of Mountains
p 7 - UNESCO to study Aral Sea Basin
p 8 - 18 new sites added to World Network of Biosphere
p 8 - The International Year of Freshwater gets under
p 9 - UNESCO and Suez join forces to improve access
p 9 - UNITWIN blows out ten candles
p 10 - Space allows us to dream
p 10 - Young researchers win MAB grants
p 11 - Patricio Bernal explains why the IOC is watching
research on ocean storage of carbon
p 14 - Practical laboratory work: to be or not to be?
p 16 - Diary
p 16 - New releases
p 16 - Governing bodies
on the ground, head in the clouds'
are extraordinary. Who could not marvel at the sight of giraffes
grazing against the backdrop of snow-capped Kilimanjaro in
Tanzania or at the Atlas mountains surging out of the Moroccan
admire their beauty but how conscious are we of the essential
role mountains play in regulating the Earth’s climate and
energy balance, in recording Earth’s history and in supplying
us with freshwater and much of the world’s remaining genetic
diversity, including precious crop genes? Mountains have been
called ‘the water towers of the world’; they are the source
of water for more than half the world's population and the
origin of all the world's major rivers.
they may be, but mountains also harbour fragile ecosystems.
Their often thin soil layers erode easily, limiting plant
growth and making mountains vulnerable to human disturbance.
Mountains also have a long history of economic exploitation
and political neglect.
climate change is now posing new threats, causing glaciers
to melt at unprecedented rates and increasing the frequency
of natural catastrophes with their heavy human and economic
we shall see in this issue, there is obvious call for concern,
both in terms of the biophysical environment of mountains
and the deteriorating living conditions of their 500 million
was in order to foster awareness of the importance of mountains
and sustainable mountain development that the United Nations
designated 2002 as International Year of Mountains.
highlight of the Year for UNESCO has undoubtedly been the
launch of a global climate change monitoring programme with
several of the Organization’s major research partners and
involving UNESCO’s mountain biosphere reserves. Through this
important project, UNESCO will be setting up monitoring stations
in ‘sample’ biosphere reserves to collect data on the effects
of climate warming on some of the most diverse of Earth’s
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences